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What to Tell Your Child When Role Models Disappoint

Lylah M. Alphonse, parenting blogger for the Boston Globe, has posted a great list of tips by child and teen development expert Dr. Robyn Silverman about how to help your child deal with being let down by a role model, centered around the recent “hypersexualization” of  Miley Cyrus.  (You can read my take on Miley’s transformation and the Perez Hilton photo scandal on my personal blog, if you like.)

Silverman’s ideas include exposing your child to real-life role models, as well as athletes and celebrities.  Sure, Tiger Woods may be a great golfer, but what about lauding the coach of your son’s t-ball team as a successful sportsman?  If your child is uncomfortable with or disappointed in the way a role model has changed, help them brainstorm alternative behaviors their hero could have engaged in.  For example, ask, “If Miley is interested in changing her image from one of a child star to an adult, what would you suggest? Is this the only way to convey that she is not a child anymore?”

Silverman says for parents of daughters, it’s important to “define what an empowered, confident, bold, beautiful girl looks like.”  This makes me think of my friend, comedian Ophira Eisenberg, who told a wonderful story Wednesday night about her childhood adoration of the character Marion Ravenwood from the Indiana Jones movies.  She idolized Marion because like her, Marion had brown hair and wore normal clothes.  She was tough and smart and could take care of herself.  Ophira ended up studying archeology in college due to the character’s influence, but soon discovered “it was too hard and switched to anthropology.”  Ophira and I talked about how female love interests in 80′s movies weren’t sexy the very first time you saw them on screen.  They often saved their allure and resisted using their feminine wiles on the hero until at least halfway through the film.  (The on-screen equivalent of the third date.)

Along those lines, Silverman recommends making sure your daughters understand that their bodies “are so much more than something to look at” and to remember that your child can always find a new role model if need be.  So long, Hannah Montana!  The kids will miss you.  (Now what do we do with these shirts?  And bags, and posters… and crocs.  My sister gave my daughter Hannah Montana crocs for her birthday.  Maybe I’ll keep them.  They could be a lifesaver.)

Photo: Disney

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